Did you know the the driest national park in North America is home to what has been described as the world’s rarest fish? Death Valley National Park is home to tiny but extremely hardy pupfish that are unique to the areas where they live. Only a few inches long, these pupfish have adapted to survive some of the harshest conditions of any fish, including high salt levels and temperatures of up to 108°F.
Eleven thousand years ago the climate underwent significant changes in this area, and the vast system of shallow lakes and rivers that once covered the area slowly dried up. Out of this ancient water system pupfish habitats fed by salty, isolated springs endured. This resulted in isolated populations of pupfish.
The pupfish found in Devils Hole, a detached unit of Death Valley National Park, are critically endangered, with a population of only a few hundred individuals. The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is endemic only to this single spring-fed cave, and was listed as endangered in 1967. Conservationists have been working since then to stabilize the population and prevent its extinction.
While there are other species of pupfish in the Death Valley area, scientists believe that some, including the Shoshone Pupfish and Tecopa Pupfish, have already gone extinct.